Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lalu has stretched the infrastructure too far

In the last five years of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government perhaps the biggest surprise has been the performance of Lalu Prasad Yadav in the Railway Ministry. A person who was synonymous with corruption, law and order problems and underdevelopment in Bihar has turned the Indian Railways into a profit making organization in just one terms as the Railway Minister.

To question Lalu's performance as a Railway Minister would be suicidal. He has brought back people's confidence in the Indian Railways. This has been a huge achievement as under Mamata Banerjee the railways had almost come to a halt. Had it not been for the timely correction done by Nitish Kumar in the later stages of the NDA rule the Indian Railways would have have still been incurring losses.

Lalu has done the unthinkable by reducing the passenger fares and freight rates yet making profits. The only way it has been possible is by increasing the load capacity both in terms of passengers and freight and more so in the case of the latter. This has made sure that cost of transportation per kilogram of goods and per person has reduced yet the increase in volume has brought in profit in both the cases.

But the extra load has taken a toll on the infrastructure of the railways. The bulk of the tracks of the Indian Railways were laid in the British era and not designed to take the weight they carry today. This has created a situation of disaster waiting to happen in most parts of the country. The recent Coremandal Express derailment in Orissa was one such example where the fish plates just gave ofd under the load.

Looking from the commoners perspective Lalu has done a great job in the Railway Ministry by giving monetary benefits to the passengers and business houses. But he has created a bigger problem of track and infrastructure safety which cannot be ignored either. The coming government will have to focus on the infrastructure of the Railways if they want the lifeline of the country to be the safest mode of transport in the country.


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